Climate Change and Water Quality in the Great Lakes Region: Risks, Opportunities, and Responses

Linda Mortsch, Marianne Alden, Joel D. Scheraga
Posted on: 8/30/2003 - Updated on: 8/21/2023

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From the Introduction:

Climate provides fundamental limits on and opportunities for human activities and ecosystem functioning within the Great Lakes region. A changing climate could lead to alterations in the frequency and severity of droughts and floods; water supply; air, soil, and water quality; ecosystem health; human health; and resource use and the economy. Climate change may act through multiple pathways; interactions in and impacts on the Great Lakes ecosystem can be dynamic and non-linear. Within the Great Lakes watershed, there are already numerous stressors that cause ecosystem change including land use change, pollution, eutrophication, invasion of exotic species, and acid precipitation. A changing climate should be considered as another agent of change acting in concert with other ecosystem stresses.

Recognizing that this emerging issue required a survey of the potential impacts and the ability to adapt, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board commissioned a white paper to explore the implications of a changing climate on the Great Lakes watershed (Figure 1-1). The white paper
addresses four broad questions:

  • What are the Great Lakes water quality issues associated with climate change?
  • What are the potential impacts of climate change on the “beneficial uses” in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement?
  • How might these impacts vary across the Great Lakes?
  • What are the implications for decision-making?


Mortsch, L., Alden, M., & Scheraga, J. D. (2003). Climate change and water quality in the Great Lakes Region: Risks, opportunities, and responses. Environment Canada and the US EPA. Retrieved from CAKE: